Flooding devastates High River

Breaking news: High River continues to rescue people from flooded homes

By: Don Patterson

  |  Posted: Thursday, Jun 20, 2013 09:08 pm

High River resident Kevan Yaets swims away from his sinking truck with his cat Momo during flooding in the town Thursday. The man narrowly escaped out the back window.
High River resident Kevan Yaets swims away from his sinking truck with his cat Momo during flooding in the town Thursday. The man narrowly escaped out the back window.
Jordan Verlage/OWW

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Record flooding in High River is leaving unprecedented damage in its wake, forcing people to abandon their swamped homes and seek refuge on higher ground.

The situation deteriorated to the point that emergency officials called in the military to help rescue people stranded in homes and businesses after the Highwood River rapidly overflowed its banks earlier today.

High River is under a mandatory evacuation order as a large part of the community is now under water and thousands have been rescued with whatever resources available including helicopters, heavy equipment, boats and even combines.

Emergency officials have said the Town will be inhabitable for at least two days.

Displaced residents can go to the Okotoks Recreation Centre, the Oilfields Arena in Black Diamond and MD of Foothills evacuees can go to Heritage Heights School. Residents in High River were directed to go to the Tom Horneker Recreation Centre in Nanton, but Highway 2 between High River and Nanton flooded and traffic is being re-routed north.

Meanwhile, many residents in High River are still waiting for rescue.

As of this evening Annie Froese, owner of the Art and Soul Gallery in High River, and her husband Herb, were stuck in the gallery on Sixth Avenue in High River. She estimated there is almost four feet of water in the street outside the gallery.

“We're at the gallery and we see a police car stuck in water behind the Beef and Brew,” said Froese.

Flooding started early Thursday morning after heavy rains overnight and the Highwood River isn't expected to crest until midnight.

Due to the surging flood waters the Town has been forced to move its Emergency Operations Centre and it is now at the Heritage Pointe fire hall. It has also knocked out landline phone service in High River and cell phone coverage is unreliable.

Froese said the flood happened so quickly and there was no evacuation order as the Highwood River overflowed its banks. They were in the basement of the gallery removing artwork when they noticed the backyard filling up.

She said she was shocked at how quickly the flood happened.

“We never thought it would get this high,” she said.

The two considered walking or even kayaking to safety, but chose to stay at the gallery and call to be rescued.

They were told medical emergencies had first priority and they were on a waiting list to be evacuated.

Evacuations continued into the evening and some residents with mobility problems have needed extra help.

Emergency officials are also organizing security for evacuated homes and businesses to curb looting.

The flood happened so quickly it caught residents unaware and unprepared.

It was around 1 p.m. when High River resident Kevan Yeats was driving his truck through water on Fifth Avenue. He misjudged how much water was on the road.

“The truck started to float away from me and was heading backwards,” he said.

The front end went under water and he had to break a window on the back of the truck to escape. He was able to pull himself, and his cat, out the truck's back window to safety.

He watched as the truck was engulfed in the murky flood waters and he said he doesn't know what happened to it.

“As soon as I left the truck, it went under,” he said.

He said he is shocked by the extent of the flooding.

“I expect it to flood, that's why they call it High River, but not like this,” he said.

He is staying with friends in DeWinton and he said he doesn't know what has happened at his downtown apartment and is waiting for information.

For emergency updates watch the Alberta Emergency Alert website at www.emergencyalert.alberta.ca and watch the Town of High River's Twitter Feed.

MD of Foothills fire chief Jim Smith said the 9-1-1 lines are being overwhelmed and MD residents needing assistance are asked to call the Heritage Heights fire hall at 403-603-3571.

The Town of High River is working on setting up a 1-800 number with the Red Cross and it will be posted to the Town's Twitter feed when it's available.


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